Michael J. Fox may be the most recognized person who currently suffers from Parkinson s.
The research for natural treatment for Parkinson s Disease (PD) is most watched by people suffering from this debilitating, aging disease, and their families. Parkinson’s is a progressive disorder of the nervous system. Striking mostly those over 50 it also strikes those much younger. People with Parksinon’s can live long lives but the constant trembling, jerking, twitching, stiff legs and difficult movement makes for a difficult life.
RIBOFLAVIN AND PARKINSON’S DISEASE
In a study conducted in Brazil, 31 patients with the disease were examined, and all were found to be deficient in vitamin B2, or riboflavin – even though their dietary sources of the vitamin were adequate. Researchers were intrigued enough to ask those patients to take 30 milligrams of riboflavin every eight hours and to stop eating all red meat. (We can’t say for sure why the scientists felt it was necessary to eliminate red meat from the diet, but preliminary research has found that many Parkinson’s patients often have trouble digesting animal protein.)
After six months of supplementation, the patients’ motor function increased nearly 30 percent and blood tests indicated that all were no longer riboflavin deficient. There were no harmful side effects.
In addition to riboflavin the entire B-complex of vitamins can be beneficial, which is something always recommended when taking extra quantities of any individual B vitamins. After six months red meat can gradually be allowed back into the diet by increasing the riboflavin dosage in order to sustain the improvement in motor function.
Learning About Parkinson’s
Devastating for the million or so Americans suffering from PD is the fact that not only is there no cure but medication is only somewhat effective – true even of the one most commonly used, levodopa/carbidopa (brand name Sinemet). Finding the right drug often involves trial and error and these drugs have numerous side effects including digestive distress, headaches, fatigue and – ironically, even more uncontrollable movement.
The frustration on the part of patients and doctors alike has been replaced by cautious optimism thanks to a gene therapy experiment involving just 12 patients at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. Doctors injected copies of a synthesized gene associated with production of a chemical GABA, deficient in PD patients. The hope is that increasing GABA levels might help calm the overactive brain circuitry that triggers some PD symptoms – and indeed within three months of the gene insertion procedure, patients’ symptoms, especially tremors, stiffness and walking problems, began to improve, and the benefit remained at least stable throughout the one-year study.
Neurologist William Weiner, MD, director of the Maryland Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorder Center at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore says that while acknowledging these gene therapy study results are encouraging, this new and innovative research is preliminary, noting that caution is warranted since there’s a long history of research on PD with lots of promising developments and discoveries that went nowhere. Dr. Weiner adds that even though study patients showed continuous symptom improvement, there’s not yet actual proof that the gene therapy caused a specific biological change. Certainly it’s an exciting development, but the possibility that it will turn into a treatment option for PD patients is still, unfortunately, a long way off, he says.
OTHER AREAS OF RESEARCH
Researchers are also studying two other areas – the first is a possible association of PD with narcolepsy, a disorder that causes sudden onset of daytime sleep and nighttime sleeplessness. By examining human cadaver brains, a UCLA and Veterans Affairs Department research team discovered that PD patients lack sufficient quantities of a brain peptide called hypocretin. This was of great interest because the same group had previously identified lack of hypocretin as the cause of narcolepsy. Dr. Weiner’s take on the study: Although sleep problems – including insomnia, frequent sleep waking and REM sleep disorder – are common among people with PD, this research, too, is in an early stage.
There is also new research on the use of Co-enzyme Q10 (commonly called CoQ10), a powerful antioxidant. The Parkinson’s Disease patient community has been enthusiastic about CoQ10, based on the rumor that it slows disease progression – but in reality, (meaning those running the studies) the research has been equivocal. A large National Institutes of Health (NIH) study investigated the effects of 1,200 mg of CoQ10 a day for PD patients: Its stated conclusion was that CoQ10 might slow functional decline. Another study, based on double that amount, will soon be undertaken by NIH to investigate how 2,400 mg/day of the antioxidant affects symptoms. Even though research to date has been “equivocal” we don’t think you can go wrong adding COQ10 since it is good for many other things where the research is “unequivocal”!
The most recent Parkinson’s breakthrough comes from an animal study, reported just a few months ago. This Canadian study suggests that Parkinson’s disease (PD) may disable an enzyme called Prx2, which is necessary for the elimination of harmful elements produced within cells. Researchers believe that the buildup of these unwanted elements might contribute to the progressive degeneration of neurons in the areas of the brain that control voluntary movement.
Whether or not protection of Prx2 turns out to be a key step in sidetracking the mechanism that drives Parkinson’s, European research suggests that a dietary modification might prove to be a significant part of PD prevention.
[In regard to my own health, I believe there's not a downside in adding whole food natural supplements such as Co-enzyme Q10 to my diet. Check with your doctor, but in most cases there are not side effects when taking the nutrients discussed in this article - only side benefits. And if it takes five or ten years for the scientists to tell us that these nutrients are going to be beneficial, why wait that time. Why not get a jump start and feed your body the nutrition NOW.]
There is a new technique that holds promise, though not many people are using it – deep brain stimulation (DBS). This involves surgically implanting a battery-operated device in the brain that is then manipulated to alter brain activity through low-voltage stimulation. It has proved to be very helpful, especially for patients with advanced PD whose medications have started to falter. It can prolong the length of time PD drugs are effective and enable patients to take smaller dosages, which results in fewer drug side effects. Not many PD patients have taken advantage of DBS, which may be attributed in part to a lack of awareness. It’s also possible, and understandable, that the prospect of such an invasive procedure is frightening. There are also some risks: DBS is associated with a small risk of bleeding-induced stroke (approximately 1% to 3%), infection and breakage or malfunction of the equipment. For those who are interested in DBS, it is crucial to seek out a Parkinson’s Disease center or major teaching hospital where there is a fully trained team experienced in all aspects of DBS care. For more information, go to www.parkinsons.org or www.apdaparkinsons.org.
“Unsaturated fatty acids are important constituents of neuronal cell membranes and have neuroprotective, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.” That’s how researchers at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, describe the background for their study that appears in the journal Neurology. Their objective: determine the possible protection that an intake of unsaturated fatty acids might have on Parkinson’s disease risk.
The Erasmus team used data collected from the Rotterdam Study, an ongoing research project in which dietary and medical records for more than 10,000 male and female subjects over the age of 55 are followed to investigate risk factors for chronic diseases. For the Parkinson’s study, nearly 5,300 subjects were selected. At the outset, all were free of dementia or PD, and each subject underwent a complete dietary assessment. Subjects were monitored for an average period of six years.
At the conclusion of the follow up period, 51 subjects had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. The data revealed a significant link between a reduced risk of Parkinson’s and the highest intake of total fat, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).
One of the primary forms of PUFAs is very familiar to HSI members: omega-3, which is most abundant in fish, fish oils and grass-fed beef. MUFAs are found in olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds.
[Shaklee OmegaGuard is a pure, high quality form of omega 3's. The way it is processed provides you with non-fishy smell and taste.]
Without question, a diet that includes a high intake of MUFAs and PUFAs offers a wide range of health benefits. But increasing your intake of these unsaturated fatty acids is not the only way to reduce Parkinson’s disease risk.
Research from the National Institute on Aging that found “the first direct evidence” that elevated homocysteine levels increase the risk of Parkinson’s.
The same research team found that homocysteine makes human brain cells more susceptible to the deadly affects of toxins like iron and the pesticide rotenone, which are known to cause some cases of PD. In laboratory tests using human tissues, homocysteine “significantly enhanced [cell death] induced by rotenone and iron.” Elevated levels of the amino acid homocysteine have been linked with atherosclerosis as well as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Considerable research has also demonstrated that foods and supplements rich in vitamins B-6, B-12, and folic acid may help reduce homocysteine levels.
Most people who raise their dietary folate intake – by eating asparagus, lentils, chickpeas, cantaloupe, watermelon, wheat germ, most varieties of beans, and especially spinach and other leafy green vegetables – respond with a lower homocysteine reading. But if the diet doesn’t do the trick, vitamin supplements often will.
Some researchers think that PD may be caused by certain chemicals. Long-term residents of areas with industries that emit high levels of manganese have a 78% increased risk of PD and people who live in areas with factories that emit copper are at an 11% higher risk. The connection between PD and one’s exposure to the metals is not understood but the exposure seems to not only cause Parkinson’s but to accelerate the disease. Keeping your liver healthy and happy and taking Vitamin C every day can help the body to rid itself of these harmful metals before they have a chance to do damage.
Scientists continue to be baffled by what causes PD but you can see that research is being conducted in many areas. Understanding what causes PD can lead to earlier intervention and perhaps one day even prevention, though the problem will not probably get solved soon even with the money available for PD research. We may find in time that PD has many causative factors which make finding a cure more difficult. In the meantime, PD patients should be careful about headlines that promise too much, but at the same time to pay close attention to research news because real progress will definitely come.
To learn more about nutrients for your immune system, liver, and all organs of your body, visit Natural Treatment for Parkinson s.